Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Grimm, Erica - VM - Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson

  Erica Grimm: Only Say the Word 


Leaping into the Liminal 

by Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson 


Visual art can make manifest what discursive language is ill suited to convey.
Erica Grimm

Love is not consolation. It is light.
Simone Weil


When I first saw Erica Grimm’s Only Say the Word, I was in a room of academics and artists worshipping
on their feet,
whilst I sat bound to my wheelchair.
And what I saw took my breath away:
not even the work incarnate – all I saw was a slide. A slide on a flimsy screen. And yet my breath was
While others sang praises around me,
I internalized the title, feasting on the image: “Only say the word.”

That leap of abandonment. The unfetteredness. Pushing off from the solid dark into
the ethereal light … yet a light without detail. A light of unknowing. Open.
Knowingly relinquishing … into a lightness of Being.

“Only say the word, and I shall be healed…”
Sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea:
                “but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Accepting the wheelchair had been such a hurdle.
Its own leap: over the barriers of pride and independence.
A body once agile and active, now permanently tired and sore. A body indivisible from that
which is me. My heart, soul, mind. All

Was it before or after viewing Grimm’s piece – I cannot remember: time is decreasingly linear – that I heard/felt/knew the call to “Be sick Well.” To seek to Live Well in the space – and body – in which
I now found myself to be. To seek to live Life Abundant: to love, to serve, to care. To ‘take joy’ – and
to give it.
Because of physical and physiological restrictions I was no longer, in some ways, who I had been. And yet
Grace called for me in all my constraints – the now-me – to leap into a new place of abandonment.
To allow for transcendence.
To respond.
“Here is a human body caught in an instant of dangerous action, suddenly demonstrating
unexpected beauty,” writes an art critic of Only Say the Word.
Dangerous action. Yes.

Grimm writes: “The body is inescapably what we are given.”
“All we know and do is mediated through the body […] A potent vehicle of knowing and
a potent communicator of content […] meaning is embedded in our very flesh.”
Embedded embodied meaning.
“Against all odds Aha!s still happen and being falls back
into place,
changed, erased,
no doubt, merely a fragile trace,
but still stammering ‘fragments of your ancient name.’”
says the artist.
Grace defying gravity,
without denying its weight.
For me, a new threshold. A new place to breathe

I still sometimes sit in rooms of academics and of artists. Sometimes
ensconced in a wheeled chair, other times outfitted in a barely visible brace.
The vice of disease still grips; it remains dis-ease – perhaps all the more so when others
can’t latch on to visible signifiers.
As it settles in, well into a second decade, there is many a day I’d happily take
the gravity of the chair over the less visible taxations. Heart, Soul, Mind…
But while others sing praises around me,
I internalize the title, I feast on the image: “only say the word.”
Grimm’s figure is alert, attentive, in that holy leap.
Dangerous action;
chosen participation.
Sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.
Let   there   be Light.


Erica Grimm: Only Say the Word, 2002, 44 x 60 inches, steel, graphite, pastel on board. 

Erica Grimm was raised in a Catholic home, in the prairie province of SaskatchewanCanada. She studied Art at the University of Regina(of which she is now a Distinguished Alumnae), Banff School of Art, and Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich (discovering in her Life Drawing classes that “drawing is another word for prayer”). Now a practicing Anglican, Grimm is Associate Professor and Chair of the Art + Design Department at TrinityWesternUniversity in LangleyBC near Vancouver. Her doctorate – enquiring into the epistemological implications of visual processes – will be published as The Aesthetics of Attentiveness: A Philosophy for Artists and Educators (Wilfrid Laurier University Press). Both Grimm’s images and writing have been influenced by Simone Weil – by her explorations of the paradoxical co-existence of beauty and affliction, wherein lies the image of a relationally desirous God. Grimm is well known for her combinations of encaustic painting using pigmented heated beeswax with planes of steel. Her more recent work juxtaposes a variety of materials and signifiers, including multimedia. Drawing remains at the core of her work.  Steel, lead, gold; ash, wax, salt; maps, texts, and medical diagnostics explore interiors and exteriors, expressing embodiment and liminality and showing “how material surfaces (and sounds) unfold depth and collide to create meaning.” Grimm writes: “In the contrast between these things that don’t necessarily belong together, sometimes a new meaning arises. That’s the crux of my visual investigation.” She has over 25 solo exhibitions and is in numerous private and public collections around the world, including the Vatican Art Collection and Canada Council Art Bank. In 2002 Grimm was awarded first Prize of the Imago National Juried Art Competition for Only Say the Word. Many of the works from a recent exhibition in Regina (October 2013), titled Laughing Medusas and Other Saturated Phenomenon, may be viewed at the Assiniboia Gallery site (url given below).

Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson completed her doctorate on the mythopoeic art of George MacDonald at the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, University of St. AndrewsScotland. A free-lance writer and lecturer, she lives on a farm in the Ottawa Valley, Canada. 

ArtWay Visual Meditation November 24, 2013